Gay Marriage Fight Moves To Maine

A gutsy legislator who understands the ideas of justice and equal rights earned his pay this week when he introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage in Maine.

Sen. Dennis Damonck would make the state the nation’s third to allow same-sex marriage. It seeks to redefine marriage as the legal union of two people rather than between a man and a women.

How is it that there are so few individuals  in political office that appreciate the role they serve, and the good they can do?  How is it that so few elected officials take their time in office and use it to make a difference, instead of just going along to get along?

With these words, “Today I have submitted an act to end discrimination in civil marriage and to affirm religious freedom,” Sen Damonck put his feet on the side of history that stands with equality.  Too few of his colleagues stand on the same high ground.

The regional movement in New England by gay activists now places Maine with their 1.3 million voters in the eye of the storm.   Connecticut allows gay marriage.  Massachusetts was the original trend-setter, and last week New Hampshire took steps to consider same-sex marriage too.  A regional coalition has emerged, and it is not by accident.  Five of the six New England states already offer some form of legal protection for gay couples.

The fact is that slowly it is working.

That is why it so heartening to see the progressive and humane actions of Sen. Dennis Damonck today.

He is the future, if we are smart enough to follow.

One thought on “Gay Marriage Fight Moves To Maine

  1. Judy

    Article published Jan 14, 2009 Rutland Herald
    The time is now

    A legislator in Maine has introduced a bill to establish marriage equality for gay couples. In New Hampshire, legislation has been submitted changing civil union there to marriage. Already same-sex couples have the right to marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Soon Sen. John Campbell of Windsor County is expected to introduce a bill establishing marriage equality in Vermont.

    These gains do not happen without a struggle, and passing a gay marriage bill in Vermont would not be easy. In Maine an opponent has already introduced legislation calling for a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage.

    But Vermont legislators should not succumb to the argument of opponents that the issue would somehow be a distraction from more important work. The question of marriage rights touches on fundamental questions of fairness embedded in our Constitution. There is nothing unimportant about it.

    Since Vermont passed its historic civil unions law in 2000, Vermonters have gained new understanding of the way the law affects gay and lesbian couples and their families. That understanding, and a sense of pride in Vermont’s pioneering role, has created an atmosphere in Vermont that would be far more open to the idea of gay marriage than was the case during the battle over civil unions.

    This new openness was evident during hearings last year of a commission appointed by the Legislature to explore the issue of same-sex marriage. Opponents voiced their views, but the overwhelming weight of the testimony heard by the commission was in favor of marriage equality. The commission encountered nothing resembling the enflamed atmosphere that engulfed the state in 2000.

    The cause of gay marriage has advanced steadily over the years, even as it has met resistance and counterattack. The passage of Proposition 8 in California last November stunned supporters of gay marriage. The California Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage, taking their ruling further than other courts have done, finding that marriage equality for gays and lesbians ranked among our most fundamental rights. Voters responded by passing Proposition 8, which overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling and limited marriage to heterosexual couples.

    But Proposition 8 will not go unchallenged. Once supporters of gay marriage regroup, they can be expected to carry on their fight. Where gay marriage or civil unions are given a chance, people learn that these new institutions are no threat to anyone. They validate loving relationships and solidify families.

    Vermont will have the chance to join the march toward full equality that has already swept up most of New England. Massachusetts was the first state to grant full marriage rights, and legislators there withstood efforts to amend the state constitution to reverse the ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court. In Connecticut, the legislature passed a civil unions law, but the state Supreme Court found that only marriage could provide full equality.

    Civil unions in Vermont represented a compromise reached after agonizing struggle. Even some legislators who supported civil unions did so with regrets, saying they knew that only full marriage rights would be fair but that only civil unions would pass.

    Marriage could pass this year if the Legislature, bolstered by growing public support, takes action. It is not a distraction. It is the business of the Legislature to defend the rights of all Vermonters.

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